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Tariffs can be good, but Trump's are idiotic

I'm opposed to tariffs in general and Trump's tariffs are particularly bad because they have no real goal, but tariffs aren't necessarily bad in themselves. Tariffs could be used for good. China has effectively been imposing tariffs on other countries by way of a VAT which they exempt domestic producers from paying, which is a violation of the spirit of the current trade agreement. So, China technically launched the first attack in the trade war.

I would support a tariff if it was imposed with conditions in order to alter another country's bad behaviors (e.g. we'll lift the tariff when you decrease your carbon emissions; we'll lift the tariff when you recognize the civil and human rights of ethnic minorities in your territory; we'll lift the tariff when you make moves towards combating poverty by imposing a minimim wage, etc.). Trump's tariff is to address a trade imbalance, which it can't do because it is American consumers and producers (NOT Chinese ones) that created the trade imbalance.

Since Trump has never read Bastiat, he's unaware of "that which is not seen," which is the unintended consequence where the tariff made American farmers unable to sell to China (WHICH MADE THE TRADE IMBALANCE WORSE and necessitated a government bailout of the soybean industry) and raised the price of imported goods used for production (causing American companies, like Harley Davidson, to outsource production to other countries, which also exacerbates the trade imbalance since we can't sell more to China when we are producing less and less) and raised the price of many consumer goods (hurting the American consumer).

Trump's tariff is idiotic because it is trying to do something that a tariff cannot do AND Trump is not making any demands that China can actually meet. China can't reverse the trade imbalance because WE buy stuff from China and WE don't produce much that we can sell to China. China can't help the fact that we consume more than we produce.

What China can help, though, is how it treats its own citizens, its own workers, and minorities within its territory. If we imposed ridiculous tariffs on China and demanded that they stop being Nazi bastards, that's a demand that China could actually meet. So, the use of tariffs aren't bad in all circumstances.

Of course, a tariff on China will always have negative consequences for American producers and consumers—there's no way around that. But, I would argue that the negative consequences (higher prices, having to bailout farmers) are a price worth paying for getting China to stop violating human rights.

The problem is that Trump's tariffs harm Americans but also have no benefit for Americans. There's no demand that China can actually meet and nothing that America can conceivably get in return.

I'm somewhat hopeful that Andrew Yang, if elected, would put appropriate pressure on China to incentivize them to stop the mistreatment of workers and minorities. I'm not positive that he'd do much here, but at least he's acknowledged the problem and indicated some understanding of what is going on and how to fix it.

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